Everyone Is Playing Games on Cuban Streets
What do baseball and dominos have in common? Not usually much but in tropical Cuba the love of both is feverish. Both games are far more prevalent than toothbrushes in a country with more time than the most basic of commodities. The air is heavy and work is scarce (most Cubans who do work are government employees) so wiling the waking hours is a full time pastime. Clearly baseball is popularly considered number one but dominos may win in the number of participants. After all, you don't have to be young or fit to sit in on a game of Cuban dominos although knowing the rules specific to this equatorial hybrid helps. Believed to have been brought by the Spanish, many the game of dominos has helped locals through times of scarcity and lack of hope. In a country with limited manufactured goods, taking the time to carve up a few game pieces can offer a lifetime of comaraderie and replace a lot of misery for a Cuban. The kids may be playing pickup baseball on the streets and in the neighbourhoods (see
) but spectator or participant can take domino competition in.
Mention "dominos" to local men and you have immediately made friends in any Cuban street. It's a national sport played in any public place so if you want to watch the bantour ("sapos" is local slang for domino game observers) there is always at least one going on behind the boxing stadium in Old Havana. Other board games are played but the click-clack of dominos brings in the crowd and the bottle of rum nearby keeps them there, offering a more complex scene for the street photographer to capture (see bottom image with players, sapos and lovers all in one scene). When you return to the mainland, if you've been intrigued by the game but intimidated to play, try your luck on the app for "Cuban Dominos", joining thousands of Cuban expats in the other national passion.
For more on Cuba and games in the streets, see also: